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Elias Says: April 17, 2017

Butler leads Bulls in Boston

Jimmy Butler scored 30 points in the Bulls’ upset win in the opening game of their series against the Celtics. Ten other players scored 30 or more points in a Game One playoff victory over the Celtics (in any round) in Boston. Nine of them are Hall of Famers––Bob Pettit (twice), Cliff Hagan, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Walt Frazier, Elvin Hayes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Isiah Thomas––and the other is Derrick Rose, who did that for the Bulls in an overtime victory in 2009.

Westbrook versus Harden

The Thunder-Rockets series features a matchup of Russell Westbrook against James Harden, the top two players in the league in points scored this season. It is the fourth time in NBA history that the top two points scorers in the league played against each other in the opening round of the playoffs. That also happened in 1951 between the Minneapolis Lakers (George Mikan) and Indianapolis Olympians (Alex Groza), in 1980 between the Rockets (Moses Malone) and Spurs (George Gervin), and in 2016 between the Warriors (Stephen Curry) and Rockets (James Harden).

The Rockets drew first blood, and Harden outscored Westbrook, 37–22, in Houston’s easy victory on Sunday night. Westbrook also committed nine turnovers and Harden can relate to that statistic. Over the previous five postseasons, the only NBA player to have at least nine giveaways in one game is Harden, who did that three different times in that period.

Wall steps up in series opener

John Wall scored 32 points and handed out 14 assists in the Wizards’ series-opening victory over the Hawks. No other player reached the 30s in points and the teens in assists in a regular-season or playoff game against Atlanta in the last two seasons.

McCollum nets 41 against top seed

CJ McCollum scored 41 points against the Warriors on Sunday, the highest total for a player on an eighth-seeded team in a game versus a top-seeded team in 14 years. In April 2003, Tracy McGrady had games with 43 and 46 points against the Pistons, when the Magic was the Eastern Conference’s lowest seeded team and the Pistons were its highest seeded team. (Detroit won that series in seven games.)

Hat trick for Guentzel

Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel completed a hat trick when he scored in overtime to give the Penguins a 5–4 win over the Blue Jackets and a three-games-to-none lead in their first-round series. Guentzel is the second rookie in NHL history to produce a hat trick in the Stanley Cup playoffs that included an overtime goal. The other rookie to do that was the Canadiens’ Gerry Plamondon in Game 2 of Montreal’s Semi-Final matchup against the Red Wings in 1949.

Eight goals scored by U.S.-born players

Eight of the nine goals in Sunday’s game in Columbus were scored by U.S.-born players: three by Guentzel (Nebraska) and one by Bryan Rust (Michigan) for the Penguins, and two by Cam Atkinson (Connecticut) and one each by Zach Werenski (Michigan) and Brandon Dubinsky (Alaska) for the Blue Jackets. (Evgeni Malkin scored the only goal by a player born outside the United States.) There has never been another Stanley Cup playoff game in which more than six goals were scored by Americans.

Blues running wild

Jake Allen made 40 saves for the Blues, who took a three-games-to-none lead in their first-round series against the Wild with a 3–1 victory in St. Louis on Sunday. The Blues had won each of the first two games of the series in Minnesota by a 2–1 score. This is the first time in Blues history that they won their first three games of a playoff year while allowing no more than one goal in each game, and only the sixth time in the last 32 years that any NHL team has begun a playoff campaign in that manner. The other teams since 1985 to start a playoff year with three straight wins of that kind were the 1994 Rangers (with Mike Richter in goal), the 2001 and 2006 Devils (Martin Brodeur both times), the 2009 Red Wings (Chris Osgood) and the 2016 Capitals (Braden Holtby).

Radulov raking against Rangers

Alexander Radulov tallied a goal and an assist in the Canadiens’ 3–1 victory in Game 3 of their series against the Rangers, after scoring the winning goal in overtime and racking up two assists in Montreal’s Game 2 win. Radulov is the first Canadiens player to record five points over a two-game span in one playoff year since Michael Cammalleri did so in Game 3 and 4 of a first-round series versus the Bruins in 2011.

Pirates sweep the reigning champs

The Pirates won all three games at Wrigley Field from Friday to Sunday, marking the first time in franchise history that Pittsburgh swept the defending World Series champion in an April series of at least three games.

Boom, Boom: Mancini goes deep twice

From 1876 to 2013 only one rookie in major-league history had two multi-homer games in April. Carlos May did that for the White Sox in 1969 and he went on to hit 18 homers that season and 90 in his 10-year career. But then in 2014, Jose Abreu hit multiple homers in an April game three times, Trevor Story did it two times last year, and with his two round-trippers on Sunday Trey Mancini has done so twice in 2017.

Dickey and Colon are oldies but goodies

R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon started the Braves’ weekend victories over the Padres. It’s the first time in 27 years that pitchers each age 42 or older started and won back-to-back games played by their team. That had last happened in 1990, when Nolan Ryan and Charlie Hough did so for the Rangers.

Angels’ winning streak in 1-0 games is snapped

The Angels lost to the Royals on Sunday, 1–0, ending their 11-game winning streak in 1–0 games. Mike Scioscia’s club had won all 11 games of that kind that it had played since June 2011, the longest such winning streak by any major-league team since the Padres won 11 in a row from 1984 to 1986.

Bird busts out of slump

Entering play on Sunday night, Yankees first basemen had produced an .095 batting average this season, the lowest at that position in the majors, and Greg Bird was 1-for-26 (.038) with 13 strikeouts this season, the lowest average in the majors among players with at least 25 plate appearances. But Bird busted out of that slump in the team’s victory over the Cardinals, going 3-for-3 with a double and a home run.

Avila is 7-for-10

Alex Avila was 2-for-2 with a home run and two walks in the Tigers’ win at Cleveland and he is now 7-for-10 this season. Avila is the first Tigers player since Miguel Cabrera in 2009 to collect at least seven hits in his first 10 at-bats of a season. (Cabrera also started 7-for-10 that year.)

Arenado is 5-for-6 with three walks in first inning

Nolan Arenado didn’t waste any time celebrating his 26th birthday, connecting for a two-run double in the first inning of the Rockies’ win at San Francisco. Arenado is 5-for-6 (.833) with two doubles, a home run, and three walks in the first inning this season.

Moreland comes through with bases loaded

Mitch Moreland’s two-run single with the bases loaded gave the Red Sox a 6–5 lead and Boston added an insurance run to defeat the Rays, 7–5. Moreland’s career batting average with the bases full is .364 (24 for 66), compared to .253 in all other at-bats.

Thames homers in four straight games at Cincinnati

Eric Thames has homered in each of his last four games, covering the Brewers’ four-game set at Cincinnati. The only other visiting player to hit a home run in every game of a series of at least four games at Great American Ball Park was Geoff Jenkins in 2003, coincidentally for Milwaukee.

All four Mets-Marlins games won in last at-bat

In each game of the four-game series between the Mets and Marlins the winning run was scored in the victor’s final at-bat, with New York prevailing on Thursday and Miami taking the next three. It was the majors’ first four-game series since a Padres-Astros matchup in 2010 in which every game featured a last-at-bat win.

Harper slugs walkoff homer on 3-2 pitch

Bryce Harper slugged a ninth-inning 3–2 pitch over the wall to give the Nationals a 6–4 win over the Phillies. Harper entered this season with 10 career homers on a full count, but he’s already hit two this year, both against the Phillies.

Five-run deficit no problem for Mariners against Rangers

The Mariners recovered from a 6–1 deficit and defeated the Rangers, 8–7. It was Seattle’s third win against Texas since 2014 in which it rallied from five runs down. The Mariners have only two other wins after trailing by at least five runs against all other teams over that period.